Family/Friends Tell a Different Story, Are More Concerned
November 11, 2015 — MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Although they are potential targets of financial scams and abuse, older Americans appear confident – perhaps too confident – in their ability to detect and stop elder financial abuse* from happening, according to the Safeguarding Our Seniors** study from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life ®).
Elders overwhelmingly (89%) said they could recognize elder financial abuse if it happened to them or a family member/friend, with only 1% definitively responding they could not. Yet only 78% of younger family/friends of elders – some of whom are in a position to care for those elders – had confidence in their own ability to recognize elder financial abuse, and more than one in five (22%) said they could not or are unsure.
The study of more than 2,000 Americans – elders (ages 65+) and family/friends of elders (ages 40-64) – also found that nearly one in five (18%) family/friends are worried about an elder family member or friend becoming a victim of financial abuse, while only 11% of elders share that concern. Elders are also more confident they have the resources and information needed to prevent financial abuse from happening to them. Most elders (82%) said they have resources to protect themselves while only 58% of family/friends believe they have resources to protect an elder family member.
“Although some of the differences in the responses of elders and family members are not huge, these statistics are concerning because they may point to overconfidence on the part of elders to detect and stop financial abuse,” said Allianz Life President and CEO Walter White. “With financial abusers becoming increasingly sophisticated, elders should be very cautious about overconfidence. Vigilance and education about the sources of financial abuse can help elders and caregivers take steps to prevent the abuse from occurring.”
Self-Reliance Breeds Uncertainty
Elders may have high confidence in their ability to recognize elder financial abuse because most (77%) elder respondents view prevention as their personal responsibility. Unfortunately, this self-reliance from elders may contribute to uncertainty about the realities of elder financial abuse. When asked if they would tell someone if they became a victim of elder financial abuse, the vast majority (94%) said they would. However, family/friends expressed more doubt about their elder family member or friends’ willingness to share, with half of those respondents saying they either don’t believe the elder would tell someone or are unsure. The majority of family/friends (72%) cited embarrassment as the primary barrier they believe keeps elders from reporting financial abuse.
This reflects the experiences of the family and friends of real victims. When asked if their elder family member or friend actually reported the abuse, more than half (55%) of these respondents said the abuse went unreported, with an additional 16% unsure of the outcome. The main reason why these respondents believe their elder family member or friend did not report the abuse is because the abuse came from someone in the family whom the elder would not want to get in trouble (31%). Nearly a quarter (23%) said they believe the abuse went unreported because of denial from the elder and another 14% indicated they felt the elder was too embarrassed or ashamed.
To raise awareness of elder financial abuse, Allianz Life partnered with the Better Business Bureau and created the Safeguarding Our Seniors volunteer program. This unique program, open to Allianz Life employees and community members, sends volunteers to community and senior organizations to educate and encourage discussion on the topic. In addition, Allianz Life worked with the Better Business Bureau to develop the Preventing Elder Financial Abuse Tip Sheet, available via www.allianzlife.com/sos, which contains red flags to watch for and tips for prevention. Seniors with concerns about questionable offers they’ve received or who are looking to find reliable companies to work with can contact the Better Business Bureau at 800-646-6222 or visit www.bbb.org for more information.
To help financial professionals understand the scope of the problem and how they can support their clients, Allianz Life created the Preventing Elder Financial Abuse education course. Available to financial professionals who work with Allianz Life, the Preventing Elder Financial Abuse course is one of many topics with support materials that Allianz Life offers to more than 20,000 financial professionals every year.